Traveling, Thinking, Writing
General Catalog Course Title:
Prose Nonfiction
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Spring 2016
Spring 2011
Fall 2009

Much of American literature has had to do with a sense of motion. Note the journeys, e.g., in the best known texts of Melville and Twain. But note also that Harlemite Langston Hughes’ autobiography, The Big Sea, begins on a boat and details his adventures in Europe and Africa; Canadian writer Gladys Hindmarch takes on Melville with her Watery Part of the World and Zora Neale Hurston travels to Haiti in Tell My Horse and through the American south in Mules and Men. The point of this course is multiple and full of inquiry.  The familiar question, “Is this trip necessary?”, is joined to “What makes this trip important enough to celebrate?”  Another field is the role of Americans and/ or Westerners—“subjectivity” in the vernacular—as travelers in the world. (I’d note that the world is both within and beyond our national boundaries.) What things are we heir to? What are our responsibilities and blindnesses? What’s the relation between the imperial West (of Conrad’s writing) and our current situation? The point in this—and any writing—is to write consciously and to be mindful of the political import of our writing.  A third field is the defining of the relation between travel and place (and imagination). Place is “hot” right now, as a topic. What are the elements of the sentimental here and what assumptions?

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